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Pot-growing operation larger than suspected; could have cartel connection

The recently discovered pot-growing operation is much larger and sophisticated than originally suspected, and may be connected to a Mexican cartel.

At a Wednesday news conference, Caribou County Sheriff Ric Anderson said there must be 40,000 marijuana plants at the site, which is 700 feet outside the Bannock County line in a hilly area near Grace Mountain in Caribou County. They have an estimated street value of $80.5 million.

The site was discovered Thursday. No arrests have been made.

Black Hawk helicopters are using baskets to bring the pot out of the backcountry area and bringing it back to a staging area where it’s being loaded by troops and DEA agents onto dump trucks for removal and disposal at an undisclosed location.

Authorities have also recovered miles of irrigation pipe and 1,000 pounds of unused fertilizer.

Bannock County Sheriff Lorin Nielsen said it is a very sophisticated operation and likely didn’t come from homegrown criminals.

“Obviously, this is organized crime. This is not a mom and pop type thing. With this type of money this is coming straight out of mexican drug cartel,” Nielsen said.

The marijuana is thriving above the 7,000-foot level, so the plants may be hybrids that do well at that elevation.

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